At the request of a few of my readers, here is my complete list of the top ten Chinese philosophers, all in one handy post. Enjoy…
After my recent comments on Kongzi, many of my fans wrote in asking for guidance. If Kongzi was unworthy of emulation, who might they turn to? In this light, I have decided to countdown the 10 greatest Chinese thinkers. These are the men whose minds helped shaped generations–not just in China but across the globe. And to be fair, I do respect Kongzi–I just don’t think he is the best model for the modern age. So he will probably turn up somewhere on this list. But first, we start with my #10 selection:
Sun Zhongshan, also known as Sun Yat-sen
Some might question my choice to put old Sun at the bottom of this list. Is he not, after all, the “Father of the Chinese Revolution”? In a word, no. Now, I joined Sun’s Tongmenghui way back in the day, back when we were all in Japan pounding sake and visiting Tokyo’s red light district (FYI your boy Sun could not hold his booze and had a few fetishes that even surprised the Japanese). So I am very much qualified to pass judgment on Sun Zhongshan, or Sonny as I called him.
You see, he had the most amazing ability to repeatedly fail–he was the original “cut and runner.” Every time he tried to overthrow those stinking Manchus, he would fail. Except he would never be there to face punishment, as he would be hiding out in HK. And when we finally brought down the Qing, where was he? Colorado, just where he was needed. What a joke. You know who the real Father of Chinese Revolution is? That’s right, Yan Xishan. But Stillwell, in a conversation with Fairbank, once drunkenly called me the “Stepchild of the Chinese Revolution” and I have yet to escape this stigma. Is it fair? No, but I live with it–we all have our crosses I guess.
So, final analysis of Sun Zhongshan….
1. Married a woman young enough to be his daughter.
2. 3 Principles of the People (uninspired and never implemented, but hey it was something).
1. Best skills: Retreating and avoiding conflicts
2. Possibly married a Soviet Agent in Song Qingling
3. Created the conditions for decades of civil war
It is number 2 on the con list that really gets me. I mean, if you are going to deliver your nation to the Red Menace, at least do it via a Eastern European redhead named Natasha. That is the classy way to go about these things. So sorry Sonny, you barely make the list at #10.
Times of strife and war create great minds. Just look at me–without the chaos of the downfall of the imperial system and the emergence of the Warlord Era, would I have reached my heights of brilliance?
Our number nine Chinese thinker lived during the Warring States era, another age marked by warfare and chaos.
Mozi, aka Mo Tzu
I see much to admire in Mozi, as in some ways he reminds me a lot of a young, less successful, less attractive Yan Xishan. Our similarities go far beyond our penchant for criticizing Confucius. Like me he was a man of action–he had a philosophy of action (youwei) that believed heaven helps those who helps themselves. As someone who helped himself to all of greater Shanxi, I could not agree more.
Plus he was all about military technology, creating all sorts of wonderful gadgets that could be used to kill people. I have mad respect for that. What is strange is that he preferred to side with weak states, helping them build up their defenses. As someone currently out of power, his affinity for the underdog is endearing. As someone who plans to be in power soon, it is troubling indeed.
To sum up:
1. Military genius
2. Not afraid to call Kongzi a punk
1. Would probably attempt to stop my plans of military conquest.
2. Anti-family, promoted a concept of “universal love” (jian’ai). This was supposedly some kind of collective system enforced by strict hierarchy, but to me it sounds too much like the free love espoused by those damn Commies. Why does everyone want to take away my wives and distribute them to the peasant masses?
3. He used his military technology for defense only. He was–get this–a pacifist!
So while I respect the genius behind his technological innovations, Mozi was far too idealistic to serve as a true role model. Maybe if he cut down on whatever it was he was smoking, he would of done better, but as it is he clocks in at #9.
As the Warring States came to a close, two kingdoms faced off over who would rule a unified China. Qi or Qin–which would it be? In one of these kingdoms, a wandering statesman helped seal the fate of China. This statesman is our #8 Chinese thinker.
Xunzi, aka Hsün Tzu
First up: Xunzi is a Confucian. One huge strike against him. But what makes Xunzi special is his this–he was one of the first to see mankind as it truly is: inherently evil. Just look at his portrait, you know he is thinking evil thoughts–probably involving Han Feizi’s third and sixth wives, some baijiu, and a tub of zhimayou. Xunzi thought people were born with a love for profit and sensual desires. I know he was correct, as this very much describes me. I mean, is there a better way to spend a weekend than drinking, whoring, and gambling? If you had to choose one Chinese philosopher to plan your bachelor party, it would be Xunzi. He is the kind of guy who, if things got out of hand, would help you bury the hooker. Compare this with Mencius, who has so many mommy issues he cannot even get a lap dance without bursting into tears.
So what is not to like? Well, Xunzi served at the court of Qi. And if you know your Chinese history (Spoiler Alert!) it was the state of Qin that unified China. So not only did Xunzi back a loser, in failing to stop Qinshi Huangdi he gave hope to countless other losers who get off on the idea of being the “Great Unifier.” I must say I find this damn annoying–you cannot imagine how many people are interfering with my goal of bringing China under Yan Xishan rule.
1. Saw people for what they were–low down, nasty, perverted, egomaniacs.
2. Go-to-guy for bachelor parties
1. A follower, content to muddle along behind Confucius
2. In the geopolitical world of the Waring States, a loser
Xunzi, if you had only reversed the tide of history and helped create a unified Qi dynasty, you might be higher on the list, but as it stands be happy at #8. Or, be true to your nature and be angry and jealous, then work off that anger through sex and/or violence.
Time to get back to business–the top ten Chinese thinkers list continues. Been getting a lot of feedback on the list, although not all of my readers have been contributing to the discussion. Many of you are loyal readers, but others stumble upon my site after Googling “Mongolian teenage hookers.” I encourage both groups to bring something to the table–you are all my soldiers, and a good warlord takes care of his men.
Speaking of which, taking care of his men is something that the #7 all-time Chinese thinker also does, although we go about it in different ways. I ensure my soldiers have plenty of booze and loot, while he gives his men plenty of reading material and 5% ownership of a communal wife. That is right, I am talking about this highly airbrushed guy:
Given the choice, you would think that any peasant with half of a brain would choose the loot and booze over an extended study session and a night with a communal wife every twenty days, but here is where Mao shows his genius: he offers his men the “wife lottery,” in that if the so-called “revolution” succeeds, there is a chance they could be sharing one of my many wives! Brilliant!
Throughout his career Mao has shown a capability for “outside the box” thinking. Take his idea of class warfare–Mao is a rich peasant! I could never have conjured the idea of turning on my own class, subjecting them to humiliating struggle and taking away their property. I guess that is why some have dubbed Mao “the dreamer.”
I am also a fan of Mao’s leadership style. Much like myself, he is not afraid of putting a subordinate in line or taking a few extra perks. Although what is up with the endless sleeping pills Mao? Ever even heard of fenjiu? And then there are the ladies. Here Mao cracks me up–he keeps on telling me that having nine wives is feudal, but what am I supposed to do? I guess I lack his ability to get my wives executed in a timely manner so I can get remarried. And don’t get me started on his new wife, Jiang Qing. The last I heard she was organizing an all-peasant stage production of Gone With the Wind. If he is smart he will accidentally “leave her behind” during my next mopping up campaign so that I can give her the patented “Shanxi Hay Chopper Chop.” If it was good enough for Liu Hulan, I am sure it is good enough for her.
1. Outside the box thinking in biting the hand that fed him
2. Genius in promoting the hope of sleeping with my wives
3. Ahead of his time in treating his VD by sleeping with more peasants
1. Good chance he is stealing his ideas from Chen Boda
2. Latest choice of wives is “problematic”
3. Gave VD to four of my six favorite Changsha sex workers
To be honest it is the last con that really burns me. Well, the burning has stopped, but you get the idea.
Despite various threats received as a result of previous posts, the countdown continues. Sorry MZD, but I will not publish an apology just so your wife will let you move back into your cave.
Number Six on my list of Top Ten Chinese Thinkers will probably surprise some of my readers. Here he is, another product of the Warring States era:
Sunzi, aka Sun Tzu
That I include the great Sunzi on my list should not surprise anyone. Author of Sunzi Bingfa, which somehow got the hippie translation of Sunzi’s Art of War, Sunzi was one of the first to really get philosophical on the proper method of killing large numbers of peasants. As a ruthless warlord, I must admit that I could not have killed so many peasants without his sagacious wisdom. Take this pearl of genius:
“For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.”
Hence my insistence that my soldiers be aware of the drunken looting that follows victory. But I mainly appreciate Sunzi for how he argues for not fighting unless the peasant army you want to destroy is totally helpless. This has allowed myself (and all of my peers) to avoid war unless it is to our obvious and immediate benefit. BTW I promise I will get around to fighting those Japanese invaders when the time is right.
Some of my readers, however, must be surprised that Sunzi is not higher on this list. I know–to rank this great peasant murderer only slightly ahead of a man who lives in a cave with a hack actress–it is somewhat of an insult. But I must find great fault with Sunzi for one tragic mistake. He never made it clear that his methods were only to be used in killing peasants. The result of this tragic mistake has been a flood of texts using his bingfa for the most bizarre ends. By means of example, I once found my personal servant reading The Art of Germ War: Using Sunzi’s Philosophy to Clean Toilets. What is next? Using peasant killing philosophy to succeed in business? Don’t make me laugh.
As we move into the top half of the countdown, we meet a truly great figure. But as great as he is, he is totally misunderstood. Once again, I can relate. Sometimes I just so sick of everyone–journalists, historians, Commies–calling me a “warlord.” Sure, I rely on military power to control my territory. But is that what really defines me? Did you know I also enjoy working on scrapbooks? It is true, but you won’t see Fairbank describing me as a “Scrapbooker” even though it is just as valid of a description as me as a “warlord.” But I digress. Here he is, #5:
Laozi, aka Lao Tzu
Now my boy Laozi is misunderstood because everyone thinks he was some kind of mystical hippie. This view was promoted first by Confucians, then by hippie burnouts. I cannot think of any other historical crime committed by the evil duo that is Mengzi and Alan Watts.
In actuality, Laozi was concerned with restoring the social order–just as I am focused on restoring order in Shanxi and eventually bringing all of China under my benevolent rule. Laozi also saw the folly of making ethical decisions, as morality was an illusion. Whenever I am about to execute Commie organizers or steal a young peasant wife to serve in my household only to sell her after she gets mysteriously knocked up, I just remember the words of Laozi and feel good about my personal life choices. Like, really good.
For all the good Laozi has done in justifying my murderous style of rule–and he has done even more than Sunzi–he has one big knock against him that keeps him from climbing even higher on the list. Turns out the story of his life–the whole riding off into the West on a blue ox–is fabricated. He probably never even existed, and I prefer my role models to be actual historical figures.
Today the countdown takes on two of the greatest minds to ever grace the Middle Kingdom. I could not decide which figure was more worthy of your emulation, so it is a tie. And yes, I know that this means this list will technically be a “top eleven” list, but guess what? Part of being me is making the rules up as I go along. Get used to it.
We start with the man who inspired the countdown:
Kongzi, aka Confucius
Now Confucius-lovers like that crazy woman Yu Dan are probably plotting my execution. At least when the deed is done they will carry out the funeral rites in a manner that can only be described as perfect. Here is what I said back then:
“Anyway, once again my Chinese brothers and sisters are turning to Kongzi to give their lives meaning. Seems some chick (a chick!) wrote a book about how Kongzi has so much to teach us. What a joke. Now, Kongzi was not as big of a sexist as some make him out to be. It was my boy Zhu Xi who really put women in their place. That place, BTW, is nei-leave the wai to us men. Still, I have to believe that Kongzi would agree that women authors should stick with cookbooks. One of my wives thinks that I am just hating. Yeah, you know what? It does hurt that this chick has a best seller while my masterpiece, Yan Xishan: Using Warlord Wisdom to Achieve Personal Perfection in Ten Steps has yet to break into double digit sales.
But really, I am just not into Kongzi. He is always going on and on about correct ritual practice. Clear case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)-this fool needs serious medication. As my subjects know, I am more of a freewheeling, boozing, gambling, whoring type of leader. Until Kongzi develops the correct ritual practice for doing shots of fenjiu with Mongolian hookers, he can stay the hell out of my HQ.”
I still stand by this interpretation of Kongzi. For all his influence, he was too anal about ritual for my liking. Perhaps it is only fair that he shares the #4 spot with one of my personal heroes:
Yuan Shikai-now here is a man a warlord such as myself can truly admire. Sure, he is hated for betraying both the Qing court and the new Republic, but he taught me that in these crazy days, you always gotta look out for #1. I still remember the last words he ever told me: “When you need five Mexican silver dollars, don’t ask for three. Ask for ten.” Now you tell me readers, what the hell did Kongzi ever say that contains so much wisdom? Besides, in actuality my boy Shikai was not the cause of the downfall of the Republic. That regime was weak and destined to fail. You know why everyone hates Yuan Shikai? Because every story needs a bad guy. Same reason everyone is always hating on me.
I could go on and on about YSK. He helped send me to Japan for my military training. His reorganization of the Beiyang army helped lay the foundations for the warlord era, which has been a great time for warlords such as myself. He made the connections between military rule and political power self-evident. He made killing peasants fashionable again when he put down the Boxer Uprising in Shandong. And of course he had the highly annoying Song Jiaoren assassinated, a move that set off a chain of events that put him in power of all of China. That he had it done at the train station–on the platform!–as Song was about to come to Beiping, well that is pure genius.
As much as YXS respects YSK, there is a reason he can rise no higher than Kongzi on this list. You see, in 1915 he attempted to have himself declared emperor of a new dynasty. Even worse, he had the most ridiculous emperor name-Hongxian, or “glorious constitution.” One of my favorite Beiping consorts once told me he paid extra if she would call him Hongxian in the sack-that kind of always grossed me out. That and the fact I was sharing women with one of my mentors.
I should note that some of my subjects have begged me to declare myself emperor and revive the empire, and I would be lying if I have not considered this option on a few occasions. But I don’t think I could ever go through with it. To be frank, I prefer my women to yell out my military rank when I do my thing.
Now we come to the truly great philosophers, the one that inspire deep reverence on my part. You might recall in our previous discussion of Xunzi, that while he was a genius–one of the first to see humans as inherently evil–he sided with the Chinese imperial equivalent of France. By advising the losing state of Qi, Xunzi proved that there was at least one man greater than him. I refer of course to that greatest of Waring States thinkers, the advisor to Qin:
Han Feizi, aka Han Fei, aka Han Fei Tzu
Han Feizi actauly started out as a disciple to Xunzi before parting ways with Confucianism, turning his back on Kongzi for the cold and hard realities of Legalism. As someone who has personally danced on Yuan Shikai’s grave, let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than outlasting/defeating former teachers. I bet Han Feizi got loaded when Qin defeated Qi–perhaps even claiming a few of Xunzi’s wives as his own. I know that is what I would have done.
Han Feizi’s view of the state meshes perfectly with my own. He saw the ruler as fundamentally isolated and surrouned by peoeple motivated by self-interest. Check and check! He advocated keeping a tight grip on your officials, and to not be afraid to execute them if needed. He also cracked down on the “five vermin”; this included killing off lots of scholars. Be warned so-called academics–You are vermin in Han Feizi’s eyes, and rulers would be wise to dispatch you as soon as you can be lured out of your libraries. I am thinking that once I am back in power in Shanxi I will start a new fellowship program to bring leading scholars to do “research” in the Taiyuan Archives. Oh, and by “research” I mean working in one of Taiyuan’s many fine coal mines.
Perhaps the only reason HFZ is not any higher on this list is that he was out-maneuvered by that punk Li Si, who turned Qinshi Huangdi against HFZ, even though Han Feizi was rumored to be the emperor’s father. Han Feizi died in jail, which is just inexcusable–great philosophers make other people die in jail, not the other way around! Even though he died in jail like a student activist, my great respect for him compels me to grant him the honor of #3 on the list.
As we continue the countdown, this next one might surprise many of you. Hell, I find it shocking, and I am the one producing this authoritative list of great Chinese philosophers! Without further ado, here he is, #2:
Zhuangzi, aka Chuang Tzu
I know what you are thinking: “Yan Xishan, what are you thinking? Has everyone’s favorite warlord lost his marbles?” I know, Zhuangzi was something of the anarchist. He once compared working for the government to being cooked alive in a tasty soup (if he was alive today I am sure it would be a hotpot analogy). He thought we should do away with government–and here I am, attempting to bring the world as we know it (also known as China) under my personal rule. Zhuangzi also saw no use for basic categories–he once famously postulated that it was pointless to say death was bad, since we had no idea what it was like in comparison to life. Seeing as how I have acted in self-interest all my life, to not only stay alive but to get ahead no matter what, I admit it must be confusing for many of you when I say Zhuangzi is the #2 guy when it comes to Chinese philiosphy.
But my true fans know me, and they will understand. You see, I am something of a drunk. One of my favorite ways to pass a warm Shanxi summer night is to chug beer and do shots of fenjiu out of the belly button of one of my many wives. Many times the fenjiu belly vessel will not be a wife, but a poor peasant girl I forced into my household, or perhaps a professional sex worker. In any case, up late at night, drunk and pleased with myself, staring up at that one star still visible through the haze created by my coal mines, my mind often wanders away from pressing military concerns. I often find myself thinking about the philosophical conundrums raised by Zhuangzi.
Am I really Yan Xishan? Or is this some sort of dream, and when I wake up I will discover that I am in fact some sort of stinking insect? Damn. That’s some deep shit right there.
The long wait is over. I am pleased to announce, without any further ado, the number one Chinese philosopher. The man worthy of your love and adoration. He is a man that was born in turbulent times, but never shrank away from danger, instead engaging and conquering a war-torn and fragmented state. Here he is:
That’s right, me. Who made Shanxi into the model province? Me. Who has ruled over Shanxi for two decades, earning the moniker “the Model Governor”? Me, that’s who!
When I was a young lad, I had nothing. I remember wanting to buy some fenjiu but not having enough money… the thought of having two Mexican silver dollars to rub together was a distant dream. But look at me now. I run Shanxi. I am rich and surrounded by sycophants who fear my wrath. I execute peasants the way Mao “accidentally” gets his wives executed–which is to say I do it a lot. I have more wives than Jiang Jieshi, Feng Yuxiang, and Zhang Zuolin put together.
And you know, for a long time I was not the strongest warlord in North China. Not even close. But I played the key role in balancing various factions. Everyone needed me, and I played that card like a pro. I am damn crafty. Yuan Shikai once wanted to have me executed as a traitor. How did that work out Yuan? Oh yeah, you are dead, and I am alive, blogging about how you are a punk. Feng Yuxiang? Yeah he wanted to occupy Shanxi, but guess what? He needed my support against some other warlord, so he could not do jack shit about it.
So, my Chinese brothers and sisters, do not emulate Confucius. Do not praise Sun Yat-sen. Do not worship Laozi. Turn to me, Yan Xishan, the most perfect whoring, drinking, and peasant-executing warlord/philosopher.
Thats a pretty messed up list you put up there. This is totally the sort of thing I’d expect from “The Best Page in the Universe”, but making the statements that you have through this post, totally decreases the average IQ of Chinese people all over the world.
Yan Xi Shan was a warlord who lost to Chiang Kai Shek, because he was overly ambitious, but lacking in skill and influence. Stop making the average Chinese look stupid with all your rhetorics please.
This is the most informative piece of historical writing since “1066 and All That”. Mark Twain, Nokolai Gogol, Lenny Bruce – these chumps just aren’t in your league.
But please, stop making Andes look stupid with all your sarcasms.
Dear Respected General Warlord Sir,
I love your blog, but Chuang Tzu is clearly number one. I invite you to my own humble blog (just don’t send out a division to kill me!) here:
I have reviewed your site. Despite your inability to fully accept my judgments regarding Chinese philosophy, I have added your quality site to my blogroll. I have chosen to agree to disagree; you, after all, are a laowai, so we must expect certain mistakes.
It’d be more fun if you could sign your blog with a jpeg of YXS’s actual signiture, instead of ‘YXS’ 🙂
You have forgotten Shifu, father of Chinese anarchism and major figure in the China Assassination Squads. This is unwise, as he’ll leave your bourgeois corpse in the ditch where it belongs some day.
I fear not anarchist assassins. I travel with a highly indoctrinated and deadly bodyguard squad–the core of the JPA. They have been trained to detect anarchists from a surprisingly long distance away. I cannot tell you the exact distance due to security concerns, but I can say that certain scents (think erguotou, ramen noodles, BO) common to anarchists makes my safety a certainty.
I read this post last night in place of my textbook for my chinese lit exam earlier today.
The great Yan Xishan helped me out a ton with all the poets who drank as much as his exemplary self – which was most everyone on the test. thanks
Also, it’s true that “romanticism” means the “in-the-pants” sort, right?
That is true indeed! Just as “cosmopolitan” (as in “the cosmopolitan Zhou Enlai” means freaky sex hound.
My apologies if you failed that test.
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ang galling ^_^
I loved this. Just got through a teaching company course on Chinese philosophy, and this was a riot. Thanks.
Thinking? a positive thought is not necessary a negative thought and vice versa. Therefore the purpose of who is the greatest is relative to the perception of the individual thinking mind. Simply one person’s food is another man’s poison; one man’s junk is another man’s treasure; what is evil to one need not necessary be evil to another. Get the point. If not therefore nothing lost or gain. So what is the point of anyone thinking.?
lol – most amusing
Qi JIaguang is top of list for a young man
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